A Sensory App Can Help Blind People Enjoy the Solar Eclipse

Friday, 18 August 2017 - 7:51PM
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Friday, 18 August 2017 - 7:51PM
A Sensory App Can Help Blind People Enjoy the Solar Eclipse
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Of all the planets in our solar system, Earth has the coolest eclipses. None of our neighboring planets have moons that are big enough to cast such a large shadow, making the rare instance of a total solar eclipse all the more unique when we get to experience one.

Sadly, not everyone has the ability to enjoy the upcoming solar eclipse on an even playing field - those who are in some way visually impaired will, naturally, not get quite as much from the experience of the moon blotting out the sun's rays, and even many people with passable vision don't have enough clarity to be able to enjoy the view from a pinhole projector. Because, as we all hopefully know, you should never look directly at a solar eclipse.

Thankfully, for those who might otherwise miss out on this experience, there's an app for this. The Eclipse Soundscapes project provides those with visual challenges a range of different ways to interact with the eclipse, even if they're unable to marvel at seeing the world go dark. Essentially, it recreates the eclipse using other sensory experiences beyond just sight.

The project's app provides a soundscape to help give users and audible understanding of the world during and after an eclipse, as nocturnal animals begin to stir early, while a "false dawn chorus" occurs when the sun reappears and all the birds and other animals assume that it must now be morning, and time to sing.

The app also provides streaming audio from national parks, to give blind users the chance to hear the sounds of an eclipse that might not be heard by those living in a built-up area.




Perhaps more technically impressive, though, is the way that the app can use a phone's vibrate function to create a tactile rumble map that users can explore with their fingertips. The app will display pictures of the eclipse as it progresses, with users able to touch the screen to feel vibrations that represent light as the they slowly fade as the sun is covered by the moon. This will help visually impaired users to be able to participate as they keep track of the eclipse in real-time.

In addition to being useful for those who are completely blind, it will also provide help for those who are partially sighted, as the big pictures that can be held close to the user's face will be more useful than distant, small projections of the event. It's not a complete recreation, but providing multiple alternate senses does a great job of forming a non-visual solar eclipse.

It's absolutely wonderful that Eclipse Soundscapes will be able to help people who are visually impaired to be able to enjoy the eclipse alongside their friends and family. It just goes to show what interesting methods exist to help level the playing field for those who suffer from disabilities in the modern world, so let's hope that projects like these gain additional support and attention so that everyone can enjoy big, impressive celestial events of this nature.
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